Retreats and Reminders

A dear friend sent me to a little cabin in the woods one year ago in April. She noticed my frantic soul, my chaotic mind and loved me enough to pay for a weekend away. That same year, she would retreat to that same cabin, and it was then and there that the Lord would call her to full-time missions in Thailand. So that place, in some ways, feels like holy ground, made sacred by the work God has done.

This friend has a habit of retreating. She’s the first person I met who has worked retreats into the rhythm of life, investing in them with both her time and resources. For years, she worked at a church, which meant working on the weekends and working well into the night most week nights. Over and over again, she found herself sacrificing time and energy, giving it all to her job, the ministry, the church. But after years of this, I noticed a change.

She too had grown weary, her mind exhausted and her heart running on empty. After caring for others so diligently, attending countless retreats and summer camps and weekend getaways as a leader for high school students, it had been years since she had done any soul care for herself. And so she began to prioritize retreats, weekends away to refocus and re-center.

She is my hero. She works hard; she loves well. She says yes to people and to things that matter to her. She cares for her family and for her friends. She laughs often and cries out to God always. And she takes time to rest.

She would be the first to tell others that she’s not perfect—and no one expects her to be—but she would be one of the first to remind others to pause, to breathe deeply, to do something they truly love, to create space for the things that fill them. She understood the importance of carving out space, space to listen and to sit and to reflect. Space to reignite a passion and a fire. Space to remind herself why she was doing what she was doing. Space to dream. Space to imagine. Space to be.

And so it seemed fitting and it seemed to be a calling from God himself, to set aside last weekend, to say “no” to all other plans, to duck out of work a little early, to drive away from civilization and to park my car by the little cabin in the woods.

Because my soul needed to be reminded. It needed to breathe and to rest. It needed to detox from the busy and the stress and the chaos. That’s what this retreat was—one giant detox. Even as I woke up Saturday morning, wiping the sleep from my eyes, I was thinking about what was next, about what I wanted to get done, about what I wanted do and what I wanted to do after that and then after that and after that. Simply declaring a retreat weekend didn’t take away the hustle and the hurry of my heart.

This is why we retreat.

Because even when we retreat, we need to carve out space, and we need to give ourselves grace. Because the frantic and the hustle and the rush don’t just disappear when we decide to retreat.

And so on Saturday morning as I went for a run, I took it slow and enjoyed the incredibly beautiful country side around me. I made coffee and sat on the couch, listening to the wind rustle the trees. Storms rolled in sometime in the afternoon, and rain pounded on the roof for hours. I listened to that too as I wrote more words than I had in years.

And I practiced something I had long abandoned in this busy and chaotic season of life: rest. It was the kind of rest that took things one at a time, the kind of rest that was present and focused on the gift God put in front of me for that very moment. It was the kind of rest that released the pent-up tension of a life that had been lived to simply make it through the day, day after day after day after day.

Saturday night, after writing and processing and pouring over Scripture and other books, I found myself dwelling in a great peace, having thought about a lot and solved very little. I found myself grateful. I was grateful for weekends that allowed the space and the courage to say no to good things so that yes could be said to the best thing. I was grateful for this place, this little cabin made almost entirely of windows, the cabin that sits in the middle of Amish country in a small wood. I was thankful for rest, for the space it creates to remind us of the deepest parts of our truest selves.

And I was thankful for my dear friend who taught me to retreat, to allow my soul to rest, to let myself be reminded.

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